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You're reading: Moldova breakaway leader seeks to cling to power
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A ragged strip of land in central Europe that runs down Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine, Transdniestria is the most westward of the former Soviet Union’s "frozen conflicts" – ethnic disputes that flared into wars when the superpower collapsed and remain latent and unresolved two decades later.

Igor Smirnov, 70, who has led the majority Russian-speaking region for more than 20 years, had sought a fifth straight term in Sunday’s election, against the wishes of his one-time patron, Moscow. A late-night exit poll had given him a comfortable lead.

But by morning, parliamentary speaker Anatoly Kaminsky, 61, who is endorsed by the Kremlin, and lawyer Yevgeny Shevchuk, 43, both claimed they were first-round front-runners and should face each other in a run-off.

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